Denim trends this season are seemingly inspired by a blend of heritage, political and anticorporation sentiments, which was seen at the recent Kingpins New York show as well as during collections shown on the runway.
These are design trends that aim to resonate with consumers — especially Millennials — who have been activated by recent events as well as a desire for seeking products that are more expressive and have a narrative. Here, Amy Leverton, owner of L.A.-based Denim Dudes, shares her insights on the influences behind these trends. WWD spoke with her during the Kingpins show.
WWD: Could you elaborate on the strong political influences seen in denim trends?
Amy Leverton: When looking at trends we inevitably look at the younger generations, as they will be shaping our future. Never before has the youth been as powerful as they are now. Social media and the Internet has [enabled] peer-to-peer influencing [as well as communication between subcultures.
Style tribes all around the world have created ground-swell movements, “street-up” rather than “runway down” trends and guerrilla marketing. Gone are the days where the hot brand of the moment (say, Diesel in the Nineties for instance) could tell kids “This is what is cool, go buy it.” Kids are now dictating to brands what they think is cool.
Also, the increase in transparency, which is again due to the wide access to information, has attributed to this “anticorporation” attitude. The political reaction to New Balance during the last U.S. election is a great example of this. A sneaker that was actually enjoying its time in the sun, thanks to normcore, suffered a knock-back in sales due to the company’s pro-Trump views.
WWD: What other factors influence these shifts in trends?
A.L.: Many things factor into big trend shifts including the cultural, social and political landscape. We just so happen to be going through a particularly turbulent time politically with daily breaking news, political marches and the birth of “fake news.” This always influences the way in which people interact with clothing and brands. The Muslim travel ban was a fantastic example of how people could collectively come together against a common cause and corporations could astutely ‘pick a side’ and make a stand against the ban.
So of course, how does this all relate to denim? Purely from a marketing standpoint, brands like Levi’s stood against the travel ban and became involved with causes both locally and globally, which is good for the world, but is [also essentially] free marketing. Recently, [the] trade show Capsule launched an initiative called “Poli-Sci” where brands designed a garment that will garner proceeds toward the charity of their choice through its sales. Selling clothes has never been so closely tied to political views and activism as it is today.
WWD: Heritage and blue-collar trends are also on the rise. Would you go into more detail about the philosophy behind these designs?
A.L.: Well, it essentially comes from this obsession with nostalgia. Instead of denim trends being driven by heritage (a trend that was very strong in the market five to 10 years ago) younger generations are looking to more recent vintage, so consumers prefer Eighties, Nineties and Aughts workwear in lieu of Forties workwear.
In times of unrest, familiarity is what people gravitate toward and so memories of growing up, or sifting through dad’s wardrobe is driving this return to recent archives.
WWD: Would you expand on what “post-normcore” entails?
A.L.: Normcore was a reaction to ostentation. It was driven by Millennials’ reaction to all the high-end peacocking. The “humble brag” meant that opinion leaders pushed back against the fashion week circus and started wearing New Balance, 501s and sweatshirts. Of course, this led to a strong ath-leisure trend and everyday basics became the new sought-after pieces. What I mean by “post-normcore” is that when consumers wore these basic items they were making a statement. And of course, as soon as other people follow suit, the trend-setters and opinion leaders need to push the look further into a more obscure, ambiguous direction.
Hence, silhouettes have become even more awkward and design details are very specific and belong to a tribe of “antifashionistas” that are even more specialized. Fold in a healthy dose of nostalgia to that mix and that’s why we’ve been seeing all this [unattractive] Eighties and Nineties activewear all over fashion week street style.
WWD: How would you summarize the upcoming trends for the second half of 2017?
A.L.: This year, the remake and jigsaw jean upcycling continues. It is one of the most important movements as it’s an aesthetic and closely linked to sustainability. I think we’ll see this continue into next year. Like I said, heritage is moving into a more recent past and rodeo styling is going to continue to grow. I would say we’re moving towards this cleaned-up look as far as wash is concerned and I haven’t seen many “extreme vintage” laundries happening. But authentic Eighties and Nineties salt ‘n’ pepper stonewash and orange peel effects remain [to be] the basic denim look.
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